Saturday morning 2
‘I need a smoke Sammy,’ his hands patting each of his pockets to check that he didn’t have any. He looked at me expectantly.
‘I don’t smoke,’ I said apologetically, but he already knew that
‘Doesn’t matter,’ said Sammy yawning, cold air replacing fag smoke and hanging in the air.
The school gate had a big double chain wrapped around it. Sammy’s brother Godge was leaning on it like a hammock, so that it bent in the way and he was half standing and half leaning. He bounced back on it and flipped himself forward so that he was standing in front of us.
‘If Cammy comes, that means we’ll have eleven,’ said Godge, looking pleased with himself.
Godge was Sammy’s identical twin. Even when one dyed his hair blue and the other green it was difficult to for outsiders to tell which was which. It was easy for us. Their eyes were the same colour, but Godge’s were more deep set. The confusing thing, one which I could never really understand was they had a brother a year younger than them, Alan, and everybody called him –and not them- twinny. And twinny looked nothing like the twins.
Twinny was standing just inside the massive locked and bolted gate. The gate three or four railing down from it swung open to out push. It was never locked. Usually, Twinny could be heard before he would be seen. He always carried around a cassette deck playing Siouxie and the Banshees singing whale music, or whales singing Siouxie. I was never sure which. Twinny modelled himself on Siouxie. He even curled his eyelashes with black mascara, which I thought was incredibly brave or incredibly stupid. Some people called him ‘a fucking poof,’ but there was little point in blacking his eyes. I wondered what he was doing at the school at that time in the morning.
‘We’ll need to get the park lined,’ said Godge.
The three of us followed him down the steps into the school boiler room. The janitor’s shovel stood waiting for the janny, but there was only us.
‘C’mon,’ said Godge and started shovelling the woodchip and sawdust into the three or four buckets that were sitting.
We each took a bucket, even Twinny had Siouxsie whaling in one hand and a bucket in the other, and made our way over to the school’s red gravel park. Godge was all business using the stub of his toe to mark out the goal line and dotting the goal line with spots of sawdust. He was good. It was almost straight.
‘What do you want us to do?’ I asked.
‘Make sure you do the penalty spots,’ said Godge looking up and around him as if the job was already done and we were standing in the middle of the pitch with 50 000 supporters cheering us on.
‘What about the penalty box?’ asked Sammy.
‘Nah, don’t worry too much about the penalty box. We don’t really need it. Just make sure you’ve got some lines at the side of the park for the ref,’ replied Godge.
‘How are we going to keep the line straight?’ I said after watching Twinny start dotting the sidelines and figured if he kept going in the direction he was going the football park would include two oak trees.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ said Godge, trying to locate a centre spot by looking at one goal mouth and putting a bit of sawdust down and when it didn’t look quite right kicking it away with his foot and dobbing down another bit of sawdust in its place.
‘Fucking hell,’ said Sammy. ‘That could be fucking dangerous.’
We all stopped and trudged over to where he stood. I was expecting broken glass, dog shit, or a hidden mantrap that would tear off one of your legs, but it was just a tuft of grass with a dandelion.
‘Those plants have got tap roots,’ said Twinny, in a voice like Siouxise and if I didn’t know him better, in a slightly effeminate lisp.
‘I mean said Sammy, if you’ve got on the correct footwear for this park,’ by which he meant his Addidas Samba, ‘you could slip on that’.
We looked about us for, what seemed the first time and noticed tufts of grass springing up like green mould on a slice of Mother’s Pride.
‘I’ve not got any football boots,’ I admitted.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Godge, ‘one of the other players will have a spare set. What size are you?’
‘An eleven,’ I admitted sheepishly.
‘What the fuck are you? Big Foot? You’ll just need to wear those,’ said Godge pointing at my Doc Martins.
I opened my mouth to protest, but he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in close, away from the other two.
‘What position do you play, eh? he whispered.
I tried to think of a position, apart from Goalkeeper, where you didn’t have to run about. I was going to say I ddn’t know, but Godge beat me to it.
‘You’re pretty big. Are you quick enough to play up front?’ he asked himself aloud, then dismissed the idea with a shake of his head, having already seen me playing in the street, ‘so you’re playing Centre Half’.
‘But I’ve no boots,’ I whined.
‘Don’t need them,’ he said, ‘this parks like concrete. It will be just like playing out on the street. You don’t need football boots to play on the street do you?’
He looked at me and his logic had cut me down like a tackle below the waist.
‘But it’s slippy,’ I said, sliding my feet up and down to show what I meant. ‘Maybe the ref will call it off.’
‘Don’t think so,’ said Sammy, each word rising up like a jingle he’d just made up and patting me on the back of the head so that I picked up the tune.
Twinny and his two brothers looked at each other, their cheeks puffed out as if it was all a massive joke and I just didn’t get it.
‘Because he’s the ref,’ said Sammy, pointing to Godge.
‘Well, if everybody turns up I’m the ref,’ said Godge trying to downplay his role, ‘but if that doesn’t happen the other manager will need to go the ref.’
‘But what happens if the other manager doesn’t want to go the ref, or he wants to call the game off?’
‘What the matter with you?’ said Godge.
‘Aye, what’s the matter with you,’ said Sammy, ‘anybody would think that you want the game called off.’
‘And anyway,’ said Godge, ‘the other teams travelling all the way from Drumchapel and they don’t want to come away down here and not play a game.’
We’d two goal lines marked out and the beginning of a sideline on one side and the beginning of a sideline on the other.
‘We better hurry,’ said Sammy, ‘they’re probably already here.’
‘What about nets for the goals,’ I asked, hurrying after them.
‘We’ve nae time for that nonsense,’ sneered Godge, dumping his half full bucket of sawdust behind the goal nearest the changing rooms.
The lads were already in the changing rooms. It was a primary school. So our team had one cloakroom for hanging children’s jackets on. The Drumchapel team had the other half. There was a sink big enough for a five year old to wash his face in and a tiny tot toilet.
One of my old classmates Derek Holms was already stripped. He tottered about on his platform football boots. The six aluminium studs on the each boot gave him an extra six inches in height. When he saw me looking at him he said, ‘Do you think the park will take a stud?’
Godge answered for me, ‘aye it’ll take a stud, just get out there and warm the park up for us. Here’s a ball.’ He threw him a leather ball. ‘Don’t loss it,’ he added, ‘cause we’ve not got another one.’
I caught the eye of another guy I knew Rodger. He was stretching and rubbing Raljex into his knees. The fumes were that strong that they had to queue up to get up my nostrils. I felt like a First World War soldier fumbling for my gas mask and not being able to find it. But that got me out of the dressing room and onto the park early. I was lucky because my 44 eyelet Doc Martins doubled as football boots and shin guards.
I’d seen Alfie playing before and knew he was good. Derek Holms was teetering up and toe poking the ball towards the goals to warm up.
Sammy and Godge came out together. They were discussing something. Godge ran up to me. As usual he was fit and fast and straight to the point.
‘We’ve not got enough strips, so you’ll need to take that top off and give it to me.’
I’d the strip half way off before I realized that he expected me to wear the red poncho that he had in his hand. I think Godge must have been psychic because he’d wrestled the top off me and had it half on himself before I even thought what to do next. He flung the poncho up into the air.
‘I thought you were refereeing,’ I moaned.
‘Nah,’ Godge said, ‘it’s a big match, so we got a ref.’
My eldest brother strolled out from behind a tree where he had being doing a pish. He was still dressed for the dancing, with his Crombie coat on and his best multi coloured shirt. His shoes were black and spotless he picked his way to the centre circle.
He didn’t have a ref’s whistle, just stuck two fingers into his mouth and peeled out a noise.
‘Has anybody got a watch?’ he asked.
One of the other team said, ‘I’ve got one in the changing room…’
‘It doesnae matter,’ said my brother, ‘I’ll know it’s full time because then the pubs are open. And I’m not playing offside. I can’t be bothered with all that pish.’
‘You cannae do that,’ said one of the wee guys from the Drumchapel team, obviously a forward.
‘Aye, you cannae do that,’ said one of the bigger guys, obviously a defender.
‘I can dae what I like because I’m the ref,’ said my brother, ‘ and if you don’t like it I’ll stab you.’
He reached into his Crombie coat and pulled out what looked like not a knife, but the kind of cutlass Earl Flynn used to wave about when he was making the film Captain Blood.
He put his fingers in his mouth and let out a piercing whistle. He kicked the ball to Godge and said, ‘hurry up and get on with it. The pubs open soon.’
As refs go my brother was hard, but fair enough. He decided it was half time because he needed to go for another pee.
‘We’re not doing too badly,’ said Godge, ‘just keep at them and they’ll run out of energy. There’s only eight of them. So we’ve got a real chance of making the semi final’.
I wondered away from the team talk and over to my brother.
‘Oh, it’s you,’ he said, ‘I never knew you were playing.’
‘I’m in defence. You maybe didn’t see me because I’m marking that big guy.’
My brother snorted. ‘He’s not bad,’ he said.
No bad was the Nobel Prize of compliments. Madame Curia discovering not one, but two new elements was no bad. Scoring four goals with eight men against eleven was no bad.
‘When he jumps for the ball you’ll need to stab him…’
I though he was going to pull out his cutlass again, but he continued on, ‘…stab him in the ribs. That way he’ll not be able to jump and hover in the air for about an hour.’
‘Here,’ my brother said, ‘have a shot of this to heat you up.’
He handed me a bottle of whisky. I took a quick slug and choked on it, then another to show how tough I was.
My brother put his fingers to his lips and blew for the start of the second half.
Twinny, who was meant to be playing wide right, but seemed to spend half his time looking into the long grass around the park for bumble bees, was having a shoving match with one of the Drumchapel players.
‘Who are you calling Bongo head?’ he said and pushed the other wee right winger away.
‘I’m calling you Bongo head,’ replied the winger shoving him back.
‘What’s a Bongo head?’ I asked my brother
‘Fucked if I know,’ he said, ‘but one thing I do know is if you let them away with it the next thing they’re going to be calling you a Fenian bastard and saying bad things about the pope. We might have lost the game, but we’ll not lose the fight. We can’t let those Bongo heads away with that.’